Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – April update

First, a big thank you to the 20 or so people who showed up for the Westport Writers’ Rendezvous today. It turned out to be an interesting meeting, as always. Here are some of the highlights:

The current (May/June) issue of Poets and Writers has a section on writing contests, and they offer a free submissions tracker if you enter huge any of the contests. They’re also offering 25% off advertising rates if you advertise your book in the July/August issue. I only mention this, because I’d forgotten all about print advertising as a way of promoting a book…

Aninka has been going to a class with Tessa McGovern at the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio – Writing Your Novel to Prompts. She highly recommends it, since she’s getting help with the plot structure of her ongoing project, as well as getting back to her desk with new scenes to use in the novel.

Writing-Group

Penny Pearlman recommends an online editing tool you can find at ProWriting Aid.  You can try it for free, and it’s very interesting. Apparently my writing (or the bit they analyzed) was cliché free, but what they picked up on was my English way of expressing myself. It actually gives specifics, not just general observations.

As a corollary (and in order to blame someone else for my writing style), I turned to a website called I Write Like This site analyzes a passage of your work, and tells you whom you most resemble. Apparently I write like Cory Doctorow OR James Joyce. (I tried it twice because I wasn’t sure about the result.) So, Cory Doctorow is a Canadian-British writer, and James Joyce is, you know, James Joyce. It’s a flattering comparison, but I sincerely hope my writing is more comprehensible than Joyce’s. Neither of them is American, which I guess is what the analysis picked up on. Give it a shot here.

Jacque Masumian has just launched her website , and she did it herself using Weebly, which she found easy to use. The results are impressive – check Weebly out here.

Tricia Tierney, our Barnes and Noble angel (she lets us meet there) told us about an upcoming book signing by Betsy Lerner, author of The Bridge Ladies, and also a literary agent. It’s on May 14, at 3pm. If you come to hear her read and speak, don’t bring your manuscript – it might even get you blacklisted (I exaggerate, but you get it…). But she’s an interesting writer and has written several books, among them a book on the writing craft – The Forest for the Trees.

Another bookish event is Connecticut Authors Reading Series 3, hosted by Sophronia Scott at the Cyrenius Booth Library in Newtown, CT on May 1st at 2pm. Free, and refreshments provided, so a really refreshing afternoon all round.

BTW, Sophronia and her son are featured in the Tribeca Film Festival success, Midsummer in Newtown – a great documentary with a lot of heart. Keep an eye out for it.

Byrd’s Books in Bethel hold a twice-monthly writing workshop hosted by Judith Marks-White. It runs on the first and third Sunday of the month at 3pm. Cost $20.

Upcoming events at the Fairfield County Writers’ Workshop include How to Get Published on April 30th, at 10am with Cynthia Manson (agent) and Caitlin Alexander (editor). More information here.

The same day, The Westport Writers’ Workshop has a session with Suzanne Hoover from 2-4 in the afternoon: Essentials for the Fiction Writer. And they are hosting an Open House on Monday, April 25th from 5.30-7.30pm. It’s a good way to find out what they have to offer.

We had recommendations form several members for books helpful to writers:

Mary Carroll Moore: Your Book Starts Here

Blake Snyder: Save the Cat (screenwriting)

John Truby: The Anatomy of Story

Finally – the deadline for submitting to Glimmer Train’s Fiction contest is April 30th.  There are two categories: Very Short Fiction (under 3000 words) and Fiction Open, bit with cash prizes. Every entry will be considered for publication and if chose, will be paid $700. Winners announced July 1st.

Enjoy the Spring, but don’t forget to write on…

 

 

 

Five key ingredients for a successful social media recipe

I first met Adair Heitmann at a friend’s book launch, but we’ve become closer friends online. That’s because she’s easy to find on Twitter, Linked in, Facebook and other social media. Having an unusual name helps (try Googling her.) She’s a creativity and wellness expert as well as an award-winning author, popular professional speaker, and a fine artist. She writes a regular blog for the Fairfield Writers as well as her own,  and gives regular workshops on how to use social media to promote your writing, so I asked her to write me a guest post on the subject:

 

Social Media has become a fact; any writer who wants to be taken seriously, be published, and stay published needs an online presence. Just as the basic ingredient for chocolate mousse is chocolate, it’s important for writers to use Social Media as a way to build their author platforms.

Social Media is also like chocolate mousse; if you’ve never tasted it, it’s hard to describe the velvety smooth texture or appreciate the rich bittersweet taste. I must confess I love chocolate mousse, and, full confession, I adore Social Media. However I think it’s easier to use Social Media then it is to make a good chocolate mousse.

As a writer, originally I was a snob, thinking that I was above the Social Media game. “My time should be spent writing,” I proclaimed, “not engaging in social networking trivia.” Then I tasted the power of Social Media and was hooked.

Various Social Media vehicles attract different personality types. In my workshops and programs I like to say, “LinkedIn is for introverts, and Facebook is for extroverts.” I’m an ambivert so I have found ways to navigate both. Every day however, there seems to be a new online communications tool – Google+, Branchout, Pinterest, Etsy, Prezi – the list goes on and on. As in any good recipe I suggest that you start with the five basics: LinkedIn, Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Having Fun. Once you’ve mastered those you can add others (or not) to suit your own time and taste.

1. LinkedIn. Join LinkedIn first. It’s the world’s largest professional social network. LinkedIn is a living breathing, walking and talking résumé of you and your professional endeavors. It’s free, and you key in your profile on your own time. True story: I met a speaker at a health and wellness conference in Westport, CT. We exchanged business cards to meet over coffee at a later date. (Yes, you still need to have those in your pocket.) She then moved to San Francisco, so it was two years later when I added her to my connections on LinkedIn. I already had my writer’s website in place, and was a contributing author to two professional blogs. She got to know me through my online presence, not over coffee. I didn’t know that she was the editor of an online journal of women’s wisdom until she invited me to be a contributing author to that journal.

2. Blogging. If you have something to say, beyond your online résumé, and website, then you can start a blog. Blogging is free and you make it all your own. Defend your cause! Educate the public about your mission! Enlighten! Entertain! Blogs are like water to yeast, when used in the right amounts they can expand your platform and help you rise above the competition. Blogs can also be a perfect, soft-sell, e-commerce tool. Belgium-based nature artist, Paula Kuitenbrouwer, has a blog. Either she read my creativity and wellness blog first (through a LinkedIn writing group) or I read hers, but we have been subscribing to each other’s blogs for about a year. Her recent blog came into my email box. She is now using Pinterest on her Mindful Drawing. Pinterest is a content sharing service that allows members to “pin” images, videos and other objects to their pinboard, and includes standard social networking features, plus a link to Etsy. Through Etsy she sells her hand-made note cards online.

3. Facebook. Facebook is free; you set up your page, and reach out to friends and colleagues. You can become magnetic, offering mentally stimulating posts, or be the information conduit about local writing conferences. I find out more about what’s happening in my writer’s world through Facebook then through any other medium. I learned about both NaNoWriMo and The Sketchbook Project first on Facebook. Are you into images? A local writer shows pictures of her colorful garden on her Facebook page. You don’t always have to write about writing. Some of the more interesting Facebook pages show diverse sides of a writer’s life. Author of Your Book Starts Here, Mary Carroll Moore, highlights her pastel paintings on her Facebook art page.  If you are stymied about what to say on Facebook use my rule-of-thumb: If you have something to say, say it, if you don’t have anything to say, don’t. Instead you can comment on other people’s posts or share their helpful information with your friends. You don’t have to do all the talking.

4. Twitter. Twitter is a fascinating social networking tool. For any writer I think it is the coolest thing since dark chocolate became available in grocery stores. With Twitter you have to say what you are going to say in 140 characters or less. It’s a great tool for honing your writing craft. Twitter is a micro-blogging free service. You can tweet your way to success! Before I added Twitter to my communications toolbox, I researched the funniest tweets of all time. The book Twitter Wit: Brilliance in 140 Characters or Less edited by Nick Douglas showed me that I will never be as funny as many tweeters out there. It did inspire me though to take a stab at tweeting. I use it to share information about literature, the arts, creativity, wellness, and all those things that interest me. I’m still searching for my inner twitter wit, but while I’m exploring I’m building a fan base of followers.

5. Have fun! Embrace your inner spark. Be fearless when learning new technology. If you enjoy doing something you are more likely to repeat it. I recently heard an introverted author interviewed on NPR. Sorry I forgot his name, but I remembered his niche is cats and writing about cats. His Facebook posts are all about his life from the point-of-view of being a cat. Brilliant! He’s an introvert but he’s using Facebook in an extroverted way, but, no wait it isn’t him talking, it’s his cat. Only an inventive writer could do that.

LinkedIn, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter are communication tools that are all about building relationships. I encourage you to let your online relationships naturally evolve. Remember to avoid forcing anything and to set clear boundaries for yourself. Gauge how much or how little time you want to spend on Social Media and stick to it. Present yourself online in thoughtful, constructive ways. Support and promote other writers in your own Social Media platforms; it’s not all about you. Take time to reflect on who you are and to develop your unique brand. As a writer your business is writing, so promote yourself professionally. Lastly, whenever possible, refer people back to your writer’s website.

After you’ve added the Social Media ingredients, mix them well because they will help build your author’s platform. Then be sure to walk to your refrigerator. Swing open the door and take out that chilled, parfait glass full of light, airy, and rich chocolate mousse. Dip your spoon in, close your eyes, savor, and enjoy.